Bury My Heart at Bended Knee

Guest writer Sean Bresnahan with a piece questioning the trajectory of Sinn Fein and its role within the Northern Executive.

With the Assembly only back from summer recess, not that anyone would notice and having done diddly-squat in months, we now have Messrs Robinson and McGuinness swanning off on overseas sojourns yet again, this time to New York - apparently on 'business', with the purpose of wooing the Big Apple if a recent News Letter report is to be believed.

Some might be forgiven for questioning just what exactly is the purpose of this Assembly and for wondering what 'business' does it actually conduct. For time after time reports have emerged in the mainstream media of the so-called Executive's inability to implement even its most basic proposals, never mind the much-vaunted 'shared future' that's spoken of ceaselessly by the political class in the six-counties and which American diplomat Richard Haas is supposedly coming to iron out. Thank God for Uncle Sam!

So what does the Assembly actually do then? The obvious retort would be "Sweet FA" given how these two so-called leaders don't feel the need to even be there. But when we scratch the surface there's much more to it than meets the untrained eye. For the purpose of this Assembly, as with the entire political system right down to the British-funded community sector jobs, is to provide a smokescreen, a pliant shield, to distract attention while the real business of running the British occupation of Ireland continues apace behind the scenes - absent of course the political opposition, often violent, that traditionally formed a feature of the northern statelet.

That this is the culmination of long-term British strategy in Ireland is there for all to see; as Anthony McIntyre, the host and patron of this site once declared, the goal was to 'include republicans while excluding republicanism.' Given how things have panned out in recent times it would surely be very difficult, nigh on impossible, and only the most ardent of Sinn Fein's brainwashed cadre's would attempt to dispute the accuracy of this assessment. He is bang on the money and has been well and truly vindicated, having called this well over a decade ago.

Sinn Fein may well sit as the largest nationalist party in their Northern Ireland Assembly but only a fool would fail to realise that this position came at a price - for many, with rising numbers from within what was once the party's traditional base now beginning to join the chorus of disapproval - a price that was much too high. For in order to reach the hallowed turf that is the Office of the First and Deputy-First Minister the party was forced to jettison its entire political philosophy, having replaced it with a version of republicanism more akin to that of Fianna Fail. Without question it is this that accounts for the transfer of those like Mary Lou McDonald, and more recently Chris Andrews, to the party stable in the south rather than it being a case of the conversion of such notables to the project of Irish republicanism.

We have seen the same thing in the six-counties with the likes of the affable millionaire-businessman Mairtin O'Muilleoir, as well as a plethora of local Councillors and activists whose politics are more in the mold of what once was represented by the SDLP, emerging to give the party that middle-class credibility it needs to sustain it's electoral strategy. For electoralism is all they have left. Everything is now about the party; the republican movement is no more - at least in terms of Sinn Fein's role within it. And they know it.

Sinn Fein have accepted the legitimacy of the British constitutional claim, the once-decried Unionist Veto, the institutions of the Northern Ireland state in their entirety, including the PSNI and the role of British Military Intelligence in its operations. They've accepted political policing, their own members being brought up on historical charges, internment by remand, secret evidence and closed material proceedings, the continued use of Diplock Courts. Perhaps most alarmingly, given that their meteoric rise within the northern political system that resulted from the republican protests inside Long Kesh which ended in the deaths of ten IRA and INLA prisoners in the bitter year of 1981, they have accepted the rampant abuse of political prisoners by the sectarian regimes that operate in Maghaberry and Hydebank Prisons. That's only skirting over the detail of their about-face but already the price that's been paid for high office stands exposed in all its shocking glory.

Given all this it's little wonder that here in the heartlands of Tyrone the republican base and the republican people are regrouping and beginning to gravitate towards alternatives to the failed project and strategy of what many now refer to as "New Sinn Fein". This process is seemingly being rolled out not only in the north, where the Provisional Movement was at its strongest towards the latter end of the armed struggle, but right across the country. Only recently I had the pleasure to attend a commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery organised by the local Sean Heuston 1916 Society where, alongside the traditional and oft-heard (though always welcome) voices of Tommy McKearney and Tony McIntyre, we had a powerful oration from Tom Stokes, a man who's mesmerising, gravelly, North Dublin tones captured the essence of what republicanism is all about and symbolised to me the progress already being made by a resurgent Irish republicanism once again capable of reaching out all across the thirty-two.

Any honest assessment of recent developments in the fabric of republicanism surely demonstrates that the sands are shifting. It's fair to say that New Sinn Fein no longer represents the Republican Movement or republicanism as traditionally understood - certainly not 'round these parts anyway, which was borne out on Easter Monday in the republican stronghold of Carrickmore by the presence of thousands of simple folk marching behind the banner of Tyrone National Graves; the very organisation Sinn Fein cynically attempted to eliminate in the best traditions of republicans converted to working a British solution.

The fact the party had to rely on bringing in bus-loads of people from outside the county for the much-publicised 'Tyrone Volunteers' Day' - something that had never happened ever in the past bar the 2009 National Hungerstrike Commemoration held in Galbally, itself, as all around here are aware, a part of the cynical attempt to ruin Tyrone National Graves - is also indicative of where the republican base now stands. Further afield we only need look at the thousands of men and women, supposedly "masquerading" as republicans, who took to the streets of Belfast last month to highlight the ongoing injustices tolerated by those who sit in silence in the chambers of Stormont.

It's not unreasonable to suggest that the people have passed judgement.

For the offensive and arrogant British presence in our country is very much still reality and those who bought into the idea of "playing the game" are beginning to realise they've been left holding the losing hand in a stacked deck - Theresa Villiers' recent attempts to preempt the Haas process, as decried in this month's An Phoblacht, is but yet another illustration of this. The British set the rules.

That the likes of Villiers would attempt to preempt anything does not surprise me in the slightest given historical precedent - she's a Brit serving the Brit interest in Ireland. Yet amazingly Gerry Adams and his party can't seem to get their heads around this basic concept. The cries of a 'shocking and inexcusable ignorance of Britain's role in Ireland' by Strabane Sinn Fein Councillor Karina Breslin in response to Villiers' speech at the British-Irish Association meeting last weekend in Cambridge, while no doubt genuine given its source, inescapably fails to take account of reality and how Britain has been treating its last colony over the past few years, not to mention the arrant disdain it now shows for any notion that the Sinn Fein leadership, and indeed its membership, might ever do anything other than what they're told.

Because they are fully aware of how utterly the party is woven into the very fabric of British rule here, something Francie Molloy conceded long, long ago in what must seem like another time, when statements such as 'we are really going to administer British rule for the foreseeable future, the very principle of partition has been accepted' were somehow held to be clever or acceptable. To republicans looking back on this now such statements are nothing short of nauseous. To republicans looking in they are wondering what in God's name is going on.

Sadly those who remain in Stormont despite the internment, the harassment, the political policing, the reneging on agreements - the "shocking and inexcusable ignorance" - are serving the same British interest as Theresa Villiers. Whether they realise it or not, whether they do so consciously or not. Given the undeniable structural correlation between the British produced 1995 Framework Documents (rejected by the republican movement) and the institutions set up under the 1998 Agreement then clearly Good Friday represents the British position in terms of Britain's predisposed constitutional preferences and its desired political arrangements for Ireland.

Therefore I say all this represents the British interest, give or take a few long overdue reforms, themselves subject to the procrastination and renegotiation of the Unionists - who also have seemingly little fear of wakening some sort of slumbering beast that may yet lie dormant somewhere within the depths of the Sinn Fein movement. Their reneging on the supposedly secret Maze-Girdwood deal certainly demonstrates that. It also tells us that New Sinn Fein will now stand for anything in order to continue propping up the very British Assembly it once so ardently opposed, perhaps not least because they are literally mortgaged to the hilt in relation to this system, both politically and personally, having become and having attracted career politicians for whom Irish republicanism and the Irish republican struggle is now their source of income.

Despite best efforts (and I can concede that for many, such as Ms. Breslin and indeed our own Michael 'michaelhenry' McIvor, best efforts have been made) absolutely nothing has changed beyond who is administering the British occupation of our country and sadly that now includes New Sinn Fein. The most salient point that party and its adherents steadfastly refuse to embrace is the sorry fact that what once was a proud and fiercely independent republican movement has accepted and embraced the integrity of the very rule of law, the very British law, it once stood rigidly and indeed righteously against. It's for this reason, more than the countless others we can point to, that Sinn Fein can no longer credibly be held to represent Irish republicanism as traditionally understood and practiced - though yes of course, like many other political parties before it whom it now mirrors, it emerged from the Republican Movement.

It's a good job for all concerned that the soul of republicanism now resides elsewhere, among the likes of Stokes and McKearney and McIntyre and the countless thousands determined to build a vibrant and credible alternative to the status quo of the machine that still keeps us down. It is a republicanism that is picking itself up, dusting itself down and moving forward again with renewed confidence, a republicanism once more beginning to come into its own. At that same commemoration in Glasnevin our kindly host Mackers referred to a poem read at the funeral of Tommy 'Toddler' Tolan, a poem in who's words lies the key to what we must be about - for patience is now the key. "Bide your time... Bide your time".

There's an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a thousand years
And will do so to the end...


  1. Strong post Sean. The title is so apt.

    So many of them bought into this after decades of unremitting physical courage. Gerry Kelly or Bobby Storey - only two who come to mind - can never be accused of lacking physical courage. Yet politics is a different beast altogether. It takes people where they swore never to go.

    In some ways I think the physical bravery that such people possessed was used in spite of them. As icons in a military organisation they carried the authority to frank the seal of approval on a strategy and direction that their military efforts were designed to frustrate rather than facilitate. And the authoritarian structure of military organisations ensured their take on something was not questioned. So the 'if it is good enough for Mick Collins it is good enough for me' logic kicks in as the authority pulsates down the line.

    I admit to having a laugh at the suggestion that the republican soul lies with people like me. Truth is it doesn't. I gave up on republicanism having any future while still in Belfast. The last discussion I attended while there I remarked that the two things in life I intended never to do was to go to mass or attend another republican meeting.

    I guess I have broken both undertakings - attended a funeral mass and a couple of meetings!

    I am still of that view about the future of republicanism - even with the bollix that SF is making, giving rise to some sort of republican revivalism - I don't see what can be achieved on the major philosophical question that republicanism addresses, the issue of partition. There is no strategy for breaking the unionist veto. Militarily the balance of forces makes it impossible and politically the only way to move the unionists is by them moving themselves. That is not going to happen. Even then it is hardly a republican position, more a constitutional nationalist one.

    Still, a good piece. Thanks for submitting it.

  2. GREAT article. Spot on.

    'the republican movement is no more - at least in terms of Sinn Fein's role within it. And they know it'.

    Love this line.

    you SF rascals have had yer chips!

  3. Superb post Sean a cara and a clever and brill title(it smacks of Anthony),the content of your post clearly shows how correct quisling $inn £einds Francie Molloy really was when he admitted that they would be administering brit rule here , for that is exactly what they do in Stormont administer brit diktat, republican socialists slashing the welfare benefits of the most hard pressed of our society on behalf of cuntservatives of perfidious albion I ask you! failure to face down the bigots that are their partners in government,Girdwood housing scandal I know the people of North Belfast will not forget that,having members like Q$£ Joe O Donnell whose portfolio includes St Mathews housing (for Joe.s family and cronies)and the Maze regeneration Trust, no chance that the principled Quisling Joe resigning from that nice little earner, but since you opened with a reference to that wonderful poem by the man who with so many other sacrificed so much so that a parcel of rouges could lie easy ,from the Rythm Of Time
    It smiles in holy innocence.
    Before conquistadors of old
    So meek and tame and unaware
    Of the deadly power of gold.
    quisling $inn £eind have become nothing more than a quisling puppet to a parliament whose record of human rights abuse worldwide should have left anyone with a shred of decency running a mile from,they may try and retain the name and they may go through the motions of remembering the fallen in places like Castlederg, but it is all for the optics nothing else, they are ruling by fooling but as Bobby said so wonderfully
    It lights the dark of this prison cell
    It thunders forth its might
    It is "the undauntable thought"my friend.
    That thought that says I,m right.
    quisling $inn £einds day may have come but the carpetbaggers that they are have turned it into a night- mare for real and true republicans ..

  4. Marty I'm very pleased to see you pick up on the fact the idea for the title came from 'The Rhythm of Time' - The 'Bended Knee' reference was a play on the line "It's heart was buried at Wounded Knee". That poem is an inspiration to us all and, while Anthony at least appears to have given up, (I don't believe him for a second)it tells us that the Irish people will never give up on securing the reunification of our country. Indeed we are currently working on strategies to overcome the powerful position the British have been gifted by Sinn Fein's subservience but its a work in progress that's going to take time and the building of a solid base rooted in the type of anti-imperialist politics once represented by Sinn Fein. It's important we don't overextend too soon or play the game according to their rules or those of the Brits as Sinn Fein have unfortunately chosen to do. But I still believe we're capable of building some sort of credible movement that can be exploited by another generation to see it through to the end

  5. I totally agree Sean and indeed some here and further afield are in the process of working on setting up a new lobby group intent on agitating on human rights abuses here, with new strategies,and hopefully effective in our ongoing struggle for peace with justice for all ,one thing for sure a cara we are far from down trodden and like smoldering embers of a recent fire the nationalist republican community may be down ,put there by the treachery of quisling $inn £einds but we are certainly not out far from it a cara .I agree with you we are more than capable of building a credible alternative to that shower of quislings and carpetbaggers..

  6. A brilliant piece, Sean. You are on fire! As good as anything I have read in a long time.

    Mackers' gem 'including republicans while excluding Republicanism' was the most incisive comment on British state policy to come from his formidable pen.

  7. Sean, the time for hard work is now as we cant let another generation be wasted.
    UNDERSTAND THE PAST,ANALYSE THE PRESENT AND INFLUENCE THE FUTURE..cast all the deadwood,quislings and anyone else who is going to hold progress aside.

  8. Sean bres-

    " behind the banner of Tyrone National Graves;the very organisation Sinn Fein cynicaly attempeted to eliminate "

    I attended those last meetings of the TNG when we were still the one-
    [2008]-and it had nothing to do with policing or ones being moved out- although that was the excuse that was made ]

    Don't laugh-[ do laugh ]

    Does anyone want to go to the Assembly for a days beno next year-
    there will be crack- drink and a days arguing-but-pick a date-anyone can go anytime and nobody needs me-its only a suggestion-

  9. Michael for God sake we both know what happened at the time of the split, to suggest it was anything other than a cynical attempt to emasculate TNG is pure fabrication. People were asked to go up to Galbally in a show of numbers to carry the day, similar no doubt (as Marty has referenced in the past) to the Mansion House decision, or more accurately manipulation, in 1986. People who'd only recently come into the party and had no business up there to begin with were approached to help facilitate the dodgy goings on and you know it. The whole thing was a choreographed attempted coup from start to finish with you know who there to issue the orders. The families gave their answer and following on we seen the Tyrone Commemorations Committee attempt to lay waste to TNG. It didn't work

  10. Sean
    My own favourite mackerism was when just after the Stormont deal he described Sinn Fein as having "sold the horse to buy the saddle" while maybe it had been around before(?) it just summed up the whole thing so well.

  11. Excellent piece Sean Bres , Covers everything which has gone on, and , everything which is still going on regarding SF.

    I would say without a doubt that SF leaders left the Republican ethos way back in 1972 , but they still have the gall to parade themselves as Republicans to this very day, lets face facts , They are in a Staunch British Carsonite house, "Stormont" , administering British laws and British Policing , and , Being paid by that same British establishment. THAT IS NOT REPUBLICANISM. Brain Washed by the Brits , Me Thinks. The more people who take to the streets to demonstrate against Stop and search , Secret Evidence , Internment , The more SF will realise the game is up , when those demonstrating outweigh the SF supporters , its only then will there downfall be foretold.


    I would love to go and watch it , like I could just visualize it , Peter The Punt Robinson pulling the puppet strings of SF, I seen the little sly smirk on his face when Martyboy shook lizies hand , but I had a good laugh , When Martyboy went towards the grand old duke, the grand old duke done a runner , That's the British for you, saying, we have you lot were we intended to have you , "UNDER THE BRITISH CROWN

  12. Sean, well written piece cara.

    I think most shinners now realise that they are going as far as they've gone and no further.

    The sheep have come to the barbed wire fence you might say.

    The DUP might also be the sheep dogs given the amount of barking at the shinners they do but thats an apologue about SF, the DUP and partition for another day.

    Personally I think the Brits have that much dirt on the Shinners that they are afraid to make a wrong move in case the gates of hell open on them.

    Also there is the little matter of funding, surely we know that should the Brits slam the till shut the average industrial wage earners would fuck off and become 'anti-peace process' or 'so called Republicans.'

    A wee hoke with a shepherd's crook to direct them here, a few wee barks from the sheepdogs to remind them not to go there and in effect thats SF's role in Stormont.

    OK so I couldn't wait for another day but when that day comes I'll tell the story of how the cat fiddled IRA money but was eventually allowed to return.

  13. Dixie:

    Maybe the Brits will OUT a few more agents if they get pissed of with SF (Leadership)!, I wonder how many so called executed touts really were touts!

  14. itsjustmacker, I believe they outed the likes of Scap and Donaldson to show others they meant business.

    As for those killed and wrongly branded touts I'm afraid we might never know.

    I'm just surprised that I seem to be the only one shocked to find out that the Brits knew certain members of PIRA were intent in ending the campaign as far back as the middle of the Hunger Strikes.

    Thats the way it ended up so the Brits were right...

    But who was telling them back then?

    And now thats it's out aren't the other members of the Kitchen Cabinet wondering who told them?

  15. Sean,
    this is a great post. It's covers a magnitude and it covers it so well.

    There is a surge of Republican opposition against Sinn Fein, a former revolutionary party which now fits neatly into every aspect of the status quo.

    Individualism has been quashed within their ranks, they think and act as 'team Sinn Fein'
    People in that party who embraced the 'Normalisation' policy as well as the police and every other non-Republican agenda, but had serious issues in relation to injustices being visited on ordinary citizens and Republicans were quickly pulled back into step.

    During the campaign for Marian, I had a long chat with a friend who is a Sinn Fein MLA.
    He was of the opinion, that his party were acting sufficiently, lobbying behind doors in relation to the injustice, Marian and others were receiving.
    When I asked, why the behind the scenes stance? When party members had no problem going in front of the camera to plant trees with the PSNI on the Andersonstown Road, he replied, party policy!

    The dye has been cast they cant go any other way, their think tank don't have any thoughts outside of appeasement and constitutional reform.

    As I said on another thread, they sat back for blatant criminalisation and discrimination to be written into legislation. On such piece being bizarrely called 'fair employment legislation'

    For anyone still unconvinced of the integrity of these people, the fact that McGuinness can swan around the US of A with with Pontius Robison, while Martin Corey
    awaits his fate at the behest of another new date, says it all !!!

  16. Dixie:

    ............TOP SECRET.............
    First secret official meeting with Two Senior British representatives and Two senior members of The IRA , Authorized by the Secretary of state for Northern Ireland.
    The meeting took place at Ballyarnett near Donegal , owned by Colonel M.W. Corkell.

    The IRA Representative were Mr David O' Connell and Mr Gerard Adams. The British Representatives were Myself (Mr P.J.Woodfield) and Mr Steele.

    Note of Authorization was shown to Mr Mc Crory , a solicitor for The Two IRA Representatives, He was just here to verify that the note (below) was authentic. He then left after Nodding his head verifying the document.

    "The bearer of this note Mr P.J. Woodfield is a senior member in my department. He has full authority to explain my position on the (3) points which have been put to me
    He is being accompanied by Mr Steel another official in my department.

    (Signed) William Whitelaw
    Secretary of state
    For Northern Ireland."

    Meetings prior to this took place when the (3) Three points were submitted to W. Whitelaw.


    You are 100% correct, It just goes to show the deceit SF leadership had, even as far back as 1972, Yet they and their carpet beggar followers (Jobs For The Few) walk about as if they are Royalty, Martyboy could be, He got Lizzies hand and didn't want to let go.

    There time is well numbered , as for Hass , he can do nothing but recommend , and once he has gone, The unionist will never accept it.

  17. Sorry , for some reason the time and date of the Top Secret meeting in the above post has been omitted.

    Silly me!.

    Time and date of meeting.

    3pm Tuesday , 20th june,1972.

  18. Itsjustmacker,
    Apologies again! This time for typos .
    I am not too sure what you are saying in relation to the IRA leadership in 1972?

  19. Fionnuala:

    Its not what I have said, Its what I have typed out, part of page (1) off (6).

    Of a FOI (Freedom Of Information Document) Classed as Top Secret.

    It was a reply to dixie.

    That Gerry Adams and David O' Connell had secret Meetings with British Officials authorised by william Whitelaw on that date.

    The downloaded pages are mpeg.

    I emailed Anthony the full (6) Images (pages) to do as a piece if he thought fit.

    Hope that is of help to you.

  20. Itsjustmackers,
    No problem. Thank you.

  21. itsjustmacker thats been known a long time. In fact in recent years when that house was put up for sale the meeting was part of the selling point believe it or not.

    Maybe the documents might have something though?